I was thinking recently about the title of this column, “Turf Talk.” What I was pondering, specifically, was more about the actual word “turf” itself.

Sure, we all know what turf is. But if you really stop to consider the word for a moment, although it’s a pretty simple little four-letter word, it encompasses a rather broad spectrum. In fact, you might even say turf could be considered a complicated thing to wrap your head around.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I asked seven random people on my travels a couple mornings ago – or maybe randomly selected is a better way to put it, as I knew them all – to tell me the first thing that popped into their head when I said the word “turf.”

The first word each of them said was, “Why?” After I asked them to humor me, I got seven responses. They were, in order – “football,” “grass,” “artificial turf,” “soil,” “divot,” “pitch” (soccer fan) and, finally, “television.” Not sure what this last dude was thinking, but I did ask for the first thing.

Webster’s definition of “turf” is “grass and the surface layer of earth held together by its roots.”

OK, sounds simple. But wait a second. Surface layer of earth? That’s pretty broad, right? It could be anything that grass is holding together.

One area of turf may be considerably different than another area of turf. This, I suppose, is what I find complicated about the general term “turf.” It can be so many different things depending on the use.

And maybe that is the key to what turf is. The fact that it is being used for something – it has a purpose. This is what separates it from a random field of grass along the highway. It is maintained for a purpose. That purpose may be nothing more than visual – like a lawn in front of a corporate building that never gets stepped on, but is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Other turf can be – and most likely is – much more complicated. A baseball field. A grass tennis court. A soccer pitch. They all serve multifunctional purposes. Not only do they have to be pleasing to the eye, but they have to be user friendly to the specific use. They have to stand up to the baseball players’ cleats, or the constant running and sliding of the tennis player.

Our own yards may need to stand up to our kids, dogs (good luck with that one), or even a hard fought battle of croquet. But we also want them to look like the best lawn on the block.

Multifunctional.

And then there is golf course turf. The crème de la crème of turf.

Wikipedia’s amusing definition of “golf course turf” is – “The grass covering golf courses.”

No offense, but that’s like calling the frosting on a cake the cake. Sorry Wiki, but the grass covering golf courses is just, well, grass. Grass is just one component of the precious turf. A critical component, yes, but there’s so much more.

What really makes golf course turf the top turf on the planet is two-fold. One, nobody manages turf at such an advanced, precise level as golf course superintendents. The astronomically low cutting heights, the rolling, the verticutting, the topdressing. You and I both know this list is endless.

And the second thing that makes golf course turf stand out is that there is so much variety of turf on a single golf course. The turf on the green is different than the turf anywhere else on the course. The turf that makes up your fairways is no doubt managed to a more advanced level than the turf in your roughs.

There is tee turf. Approach turf. Nursery turf. Surrounds turf. If you were to take a profile of each separately maintained area of turfgrass on your golf course, you would no doubt come up with a dozen different profiles, each requiring different management practices.

Turf Talk. A simple title for such a broad thing.


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